Obama heads to Africa amid reports Mandela's deteriorating health
Obama will leave Andrews Air Force base outside Washington for a weeklong trip that is scheduled to include stops in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.
Yet Mandela's fragile state of health has sparked speculation that the tour could be halted, or radically changed, if the anti-apartheid icon passes away in the hours before Obama leaves, or while he is on the continent.
The White House has said that it will defer to Mandela's family on whether the president would visit his ailing 94-year-old political hero in the Pretoria hospital where he has been for nearly three weeks.
South Africa's foreign minister Maite Nkoane Mashebane said that while Obama would have loved to see Mandela, a meeting with the former South African leader would be impossible as he was "indisposed."
There is one glaring missing stop on Obama's itinerary: Kenya, the homeland of his late father.
The president will stop first in Senegal, where he will meet President Macky Sall and pay an emotional visit to Goree Island and a museum and memorial to Africans caught up in the slave trade.
Then he will move onto Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 29, and the next day will hold talks and a press conference with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria.
Later, Obama will hold a town hall meeting with young Africans at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg.
On June 30, Obama will move onto Cape Town where his events include a visit to Mandela's jail cell on Robben Island and a roundtable with business leaders which will include senior members of the president's economic team.
The final leg of Obama's journey will take him to Tanzania, where his program includes talks and a press conference with President Jakaya Kikwete and a visit to the Ubungo power plant.
Obama will also lay a wreath at a memorial to 11 people killed in the US embassy bombing in 1998.
Voice of Russia, AFP